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Videos and KinderMourn Service

December 5, 2011

For my first blog post, I thought I’d include a couple of funny videos, and then describe  a touching event we attended yesterday. The first video is of Boone processing his third birthday decorations, and the second is just a good old fashion dance off between Boone and Mary Haven. Haven, as usual, really gets in her own world, and Boone turns his groove on with shades.

KinderMourn Memorial Service

Yesterday we went to a holiday service put on by a local non-profit, KinderMourn, which exists to support the needs of families of kids who have lost a parent, or parents who have lost a child. The organization does a lot of things, but we had heard that this service would be a meaningful way to grieve as a family during the holidays.

Walking into the room we saw covered tables set up with various arts and crafts supplies distributed neatly across the room. We were warmly greeted by several KinderMourn staff members, including one who walked us in to help find a table and demonstrated the creative craft possibilities. The girls were glowing with excitement.

It was emotional for me to even pick up a piece of construction paper as the very act of creating something in honor of Sydney exposed the raw reality that she is gone. It was hard to believe my kids and I belonged in the same room with all these other families, most with single parents, and all smaller than they wished.

But to the kids, it was therapeutic in a beautifully joyful way. It’s as if their expression, limited by words, had finally been given an opening to flow through. And it was wonderful. The girls were thoroughly enjoyed each craft while Boone made one ornament and then went to go hide in the hanging blinds.

Mary Haven, who almost never is able to speak about her grief got my attention and said some of the most intimate words I have heard from her in her life. “Daddy,” she said. “I like drawing and I want to come back to this place every time because I want to be here because mom died.”

Vail could not wait to meet the Drobnick’s, a family who had lost their dad a few years ago, and had sent us an incredibly thoughtful and generous gift basket in the initial days after Sydney’s death. Vail had been asking me for months when we could meet more families and children who have lost a parent. Vail beamed as she met the girls in the family and could not have been more pleased with the connection this afternoon. Not only did she not want to leave, but she has already asked me at least four or five times since then when she could possibly have a play-date.

After making various tree ornaments, memory chains, and decorating a small votive candle holder, the entire group was gathered at the far end of the large room for the candle lighting service. Then, one by one, each family walked to the front of the room and lit their candle in honor of their loved one. One member announced the name and the relation of the person they were memorializing and left the candles up front to burn together in the uniquely colored votive holders.

It’s hard to explain how powerful, sad, and meaningful this exercise was. It was like there was something holy and priceless about this ceremony that shined a light on the truth and pain of these peoples stories. Behind every name spoken stood a family whose hearts were broken, and lives entirely affected. Not just figuratively, but literally.

About half way though Mary Haven got my attention and said, “Dad, I’m sad because I miss mom.” I can’t tell you how precious these words were. Part of me wanted to curl up and die hearing these words from a five year old mouth, and another part wanted to celebrate with a loud “yes!” finally seeing a clear expression of her little heart’s grief. “So do I,” I told her, and we talked about her feelings for a minute.

At bedtime, as usual, emotions from the day also bubbled to the surface. So we worked through these as well. While it was a very heavy day, and full of emotion, in retrospect, these are the days I feel are probably most beneficial to us as a family. Wading through that stuff together, not only allows for healing, but creates a bond with others who are in the same boat.

Thanks for walking with us,


From → Stories

  1. Cary Nadelman permalink

    Todd – thanks for sharing your journey with us. I hope you’re doing well. Me, Tish and the kids are always here if you need anything.


  2. Alex Poe permalink

    I continue to pray for you and yours. I will continue to reach out to Robert. I hope to meet you and your wonderful family one day.
    Alex Poe

  3. Mary Ellen Paine permalink

    As always you expressed yourself beautifully. You are always all in my thoughts and prayers. As I have said before Sydneys love for all of you will carry you thru a lifetime.
    Thank you for sharing.
    Mary Ellen Paine

  4. Julie Anderson Holderness permalink

    Todd, So glad you are continuing with your blog. I followed your family’s journey. You boys were so young, but my parents lived on York Rd. (The Andersons) I live in Greensboro. Your story touches everyone. It is the essence of life and…..death. Youth, happiness, family, faith, sickness, hope, sadness, joy, grief, friends. I could go on and on. Your writing is beautiful, although gut wrenching at times. I had hoped you would continue, because I felt so close to you and your children. I love seeing them grow and play, but know the loss of their mother will be a lifetime adjustment. She will always be remembered and missed. The videos help to see their spirit shine through. They will be OK. Sincerely, Julie Anderson Holderness

  5. patrick permalink

    You are courage. You are strength. You are a great Dad.

  6. gillian permalink

    I love this post… and love following your family. Thank you for continuing to share the story of your journey. We continue to pray for y’all.
    gillian allen
    (and I love that Ed Cash’s “Joy” is playing in the background of Boone’s party!)

  7. Thanks again for this window, almost feel like I’m right there. I love you, Dad

  8. Brandon White permalink

    Amazing post Todd. Thanks for sharing & inspiring. Thoughts & prayers are with you & the kids as you get through these heavy days together.

  9. jaclyn wallace permalink

    Jaclyn Wallace
    (Hunting Island)

  10. Cassandra Wry-Ridlinghafer permalink

    Todd, I admire your courage and sensitivity to your children’s needs. Thank you for sharing your walk with me. My church ( St. Philip’s in the Hills, Tucson, AZ ) is offering an eight session seminar called ” Walking the Mourner’s Path”. I am a facilitator and have gone through the course myself, however; I don’t believe the Episcopal Church has anything like KinderMourn.

  11. Kathleen permalink

    What an amazing father you are, Todd. I am thinking about your family and praying for you, knowing that you all are just beginning to walk through some of the grief. This little story is so tender. Thank you for always writing so beautifully about life.
    Kathleen Sheffield

  12. Joy Mast permalink

    Todd, Thank you for continuing to write and for sharing your story with us. Twice now, I have either dreamed about your family throughout a night or have been woken from my sleep, as if the Lord is bringing you to mind so that your family will have “prayer coverage”. I am a friend of Trey (from DC days) and of many from UNC who knew Sydney well. I continue to pray for you all.

  13. Lindsey Bukhari permalink

    I continue to pray for you and your family. You are an inspiration to so many. Thank you for your words.

  14. Tish permalink

    Your writing is amazing! Thanks so much for sharing.
    I miss Syd so much!! Love to you all! I loved the dancing!!


  15. Ann carter sussman permalink

    What a wonderful blog. Thank you for sharing. I went to Salem with Sydney and think of you all often and pray you all are okay. I love the KinderMourn outreach for you all.

    You are doing a great job!

    Ann Carter Sussman

  16. Todd, Thanks for continuing to share your family’s story with us. It was so touching to read about the KinderMourn service. I had a younger sister die on her 8th birthday. I was 10. I’m now an adult woman (I nannied for the Cannady’s, that’s how I know you and your beautiful family) who slowly realized that she had some serious grieving to do as my family wouldn’t ever mention her really after she died. This has been a less than easy process given that it was about 15 years post her death that I realized why I had some not so pleasant issues with a (finally) clear root cause. In my family I can’t remember her coming up in conversation more than a hand full of times after her death that weren’t brought up (and seemingly resented by my family for doing so) by me. To write that sounds wild, I just think my family wasn’t equipped to deal with it so my parents just didn’t (at least not openly). Thus, I didn’t get to. Because if they didn’t do it openly, or provide an opportunity for me to, I wasn’t going to figure it out on my own… being all of 10. Anyhow, I say all this to encourage you to continue to provide those opportunities for your children as it is such a gift. Loosing my sister was hard enough, but not being provided an opportunity to acknowledge or grieve about it made it so much worse. You’re doing a beautiful thing giving that gift to your children. It will be an enormous part of their psychological development throughout their lives, not only that they are learning to live without their Mom, but that they were allowed to grieve with their Dad. I thank you now for what they will one day be thankful for. Peace, brother.

  17. Corrie permalink

    Congratulations, Todd! Your first entry is beautiful- I laughed and had some little tears too. Your precious family is awesome. I will continue to lift you all up in prayer.

  18. Taylor Wickline permalink

    Todd, I am so thankful you are still sharing through your blog. You are such a beautiful writer, and I have tears in my eyes as I read this because you bring us all there as much as is possible. I am thinking of you all during this holiday season and praying for you and the kids daily, knowing you are especially missing Sydney. I had no idea there was even a group of this kind, and I thank God for an amazing ministry like this.
    Taylor McDaniel Wickline

  19. Bonnie Woodruff permalink

    How precious that you, Vail, Haven,and Boone have experienced some degree of grieving and remembering Sydney together. Your emotions are so raw and will be for a long time. We love you and hope to see you this Christmas. Love, Bonnie and Leon Woodruff

  20. Misty Hedspeth permalink

    i was driving today in Panama, and missing Sydney and Mary especially. It occurred to me that Mary is in Charlotte and Sydney in heaven: yet in terms of the physical – I can’t be with either one right now… But they are both just as real. Syd’s body may have died, but her spirit is still very much alive. They will both always be with me in my heart no matter where their bodies are located in any given moment, because they are my sisters in Christ. We are family. Sydney is part of that great cloud of witnesses now, and she probably knows way more about what is going on with me right now than Mary! (who I can pick up the phone and call.) Kind of a crazy thought, but wanted to share it. Gave me comfort and hope it will you, too.
    Much love,
    Misty, Matt, Peter and Rosemary

  21. Nancy Markle permalink

    I know that your heart is so broken… and to see how your precious children are dealing with the loss of their mother . Thank you so much for sharing with us… We…(the ones who were honored to know Sydney…perhaps briefly, or perhaps all of her life) are so bless that you continue to share your heart with us. God Bless you and may you be filled every day with His peace and His joy.

  22. ann permalink

    My heart is broken too – and hearing Ed Cash, who meant so much to my son. made me feel that not only had I a little glimpse into your world, but maybe a glimpse into my boy’s heaven. Thank you for your transparency.

  23. kristin kash permalink

    wow. what a wonderful event. i am in awe of your faith and courage. what a blessing that they have you as a father! Sydney is in heaven and looking down speechless at how brave and strong you are each morning and each night. we keep you all in our prayers and feel blessed to be considered a friend! love, kristin kash

  24. Brooks Haislip permalink

    Thanks so much for keeping us connected to you all thru your story. A beautiful gift. We think of you all always!!! Sending you extra special love this holiday season. Love, The Haislips

  25. Janine Medlin permalink

    I miss her, too. You are helping all of us to grieve.
    Thanks for sharing the videos of some of the cutest kids on earth. I could watch Boone put on those sunglasses all day.

  26. Shelby Barber permalink

    I feel like I was there with you, thank you for continuing to share all these emotions and experiences! You are an amazing Dad and I know Syd is so proud!
    Love you Todd—- shelby

  27. Blake Fricks permalink

    There are so many things that struck me from the videos and the Kindermourn experience, but the one that is jumping out the most is how Sydney’s spirit is living on through all of you in such a powerful way- from the beautiful and colorful birthday decorations that Sydney would have loved, to the dance party, complete with shades, to the crafts done in honor of those that had passed, to sweet Vail wanting to make friends with all the other families there- all SO Sydney!! I love you all so very much and am praying that time makes the pain less. Blake

  28. Sadee permalink

    Thank you for sharing your life with us….my mom died when I was 8 years old. I appreciate so much the way you are grieving and letting others be on this journey with you. You are such a special family. I am praying for you!

  29. Todd – Your words are beautiful. Thank you for having the courage and the grace to share your journey. Praying for you…

  30. Linda Berry (Ashley Sellner's mom) permalink

    Todd, thank you so much for taking the time to continue to share your journey. I continue to think of you and your precious family and pray for you all. God’s peace.

  31. Margie permalink

    Thank you for this! You are an inspiration to so many! I look forward to each and every post. love- the Moores

  32. Amanda Boike permalink

    your sweet family is always in our prayers….you are doing an amazing job!

  33. James Harrison permalink

    Todd, Thank you for this blog and your willingness to keep sharing your story and beautiful family. You are an amazing father and you and family contnue to remain in our prayers.

    The Harrisons

  34. Renee Wade permalink

    So happy to hear Haven is expressing her heart to God. My prayers continue for l of you as I understand this Christmas will be hard.I’ve to all!

    • Renee Wade permalink

      Typed on my phone and meant love to all! Renee Wade

  35. Thanks so much for sharing your life with us. It’s a privilege to continue to pray..Sydney is in a wondelful place now…the family left behind need the healing now. Sending love and prayers from the Hixson family.

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